Unorthodox is the story of Esther (Shira Haas), a nineteen year old from a Hasidic Jewish community in New York, who tries to flee her arranged marriage and authoritarian community to build a new life for herself. But will her community, or her husband, let her escape?
Unorthodox is, I believe, the first Netflix series shot in Yiddish, which makes it notable. It’s an engrossing story which paints a powerful picture of a repressive community without ever getting into Judaism-bashing. The limited series was infused with realism.
Álvaro (Javier Gutiérrez) is a worn-out notary who harbours dreams of becoming a successful writer of high literature and is thoroughly tired of people constantly going on about his successful wife Amanda’s (María Leon) latest novel. “Writing about what you know” doesn’t yield great results when you’re a boring clerk, so Alvaro decides to cause conflict in his own life and the life of those around him in the hope that this will bring better results.
The Motive a.k.a. El Autor (‘The Author’) is a slow-moving, delicate yet thrilling character study. Beautifully portrayed by sociopath-on-demand Javier Gutiérrez (see The Occupant), we can see the cogs turning in Álvaro’s brain by the slightest pause or flicker of the eyes. Gutiérrez brings everything to this highly believable portrayal.
The script, based on Javier Cercas’ 1987 novella, is highly believable. But despite its strengths, this film will not to be everyone’s tastes. There isn’t a lot of “action”, but there is a lot of scheming. Nonetheless, a fantastic movie.
When Carlos (Luis Tosar) decides to take his kids to school one morning, he imagines that the breakfast time argument with his wife Marta (Goya Toledo) is the worst thing that would happen to him. Little does he know that his car is rigged to a bomb which will explode when they leave the car. But who is this mystery stranger responsible, and what does he want?
Retribution a.k.a. El Desconocido (‘The Stranger’) is a 102 minute long white knuckle ride, a crime-action-thriller so tense that I found myself agitatedly yelling at the screen. Believable, and with good performances from our leads including the stranger (Javier Gutiérrez).
Anna has spent her whole life locked in a cabin in the woods with her daddy, the last survivors of an apocalypse where the monstrous “wildlings” devoured all of mankind. Now blossoming into teenagehood, she finds herself seeing things in a way she hadn’t considered before. And anyway, when her daddy is played by the mercurial Brad Dourif, you know things aren’t as straightforward as she has been led to believe.
Wildling is a fantasy-horror which does not fit the mould. An unusual film, it not so much twists and turns, as it is surprises us as it wends its way. This film will not appeal to everyone. Why? Its very genre changes as the film goes on; we see the ground shift beneath us and suddenly things are different again. Therefore, being a bit of a genre-bending pic, it won’t be pure horror enough to satisfy some horror fans, nor fantastical enough for many of the fantasy crowd, and it just has too much everyday drama for the first two groups. None-the-less, this is an entertaining, original film which sucks you into its world.
There are great performances from the aforesaid Dourif and his fellow players. Especially good is Collin Kelly-Sordelet who gives a sensitive and believable performance as Ray, Ellen’s younger brother, a quirky outsider himself who is able to connect with Anna. These strong performances are the iron track that this quirky tale runs assuredly on.
Wildling was Fritz Böhm’s first feature length screenplay. He did so well that he’s obviously become a trusted quantity as he will be directing the upcoming Escape Room 2 (2021).
A wonderful tale that, while not everyone’s cup of tea, should be sampled by all.
A nurse struggling to overcome a recent tragedy starts work at a rundown hospital where an evil presence menace the young wards under her charge.
Fragile features a measured and convincing performance from Calista Flockhart. Sadly, her co-stars don’t quite convince, especially Elena Anaya (nurse Helen) and mandatory mental kid Maggie, Yasmin Murphy.
The story was fairly generic, but none-the-less decently constructed. It’s just that this is something we’ve seen many times before. None-the-less, the “abandoned” part of the hospital has a believably thick and creepy atmosphere, highly believable, and this kept us watching (more-or-less).
Not bad stuff at all, but subpar and fairly forgettable. Better execution from all players and the special effects department is what Flockhart deserved for her performance.
Mario (Luis Tosar), a nurse in an old folks’ home, and Antonio Padin (Xan Cejudo), a legendary drug lord now residing there, make an unlikely double act. But when they meet, they just seem to hit it off, almost as if they have a bond which runs deeper. Certainly, they’re bonded by suffering.
Mario looks forward to a bright new life with his heavily pregnant wife Julia (Maria Vazquez) whilst trying to push away demons from his past which just won’t lie. Meanwhile, our feared drug lord Antonio has interred himself in an old folks’ home and is just waiting the inevitable while his two sons, Kiko (Enric Auquer) and Tono (Ismael Martinez), busily ruin his empire.
Eye for an Eye a.k.a. Quien a Hierro Mata (‘Who Kills Iron’) is a story of pain and revenge, it has some truly shocking moments. For the most part, a believable film, but my only issue is that the entire second half hangs on a very James Bond Villain’s Speech which one character gives to another; without this speech, the film doesn’t crank up a gear, yet it was totally unbelievable that this particular character should launch into that monologue. But if you can suspend your disbelief, then you can enjoy the ride.
A great character study set against the background of a drugs deal gone awry.
1551. A brutal and bloody civil war has ravaged Japan for a hundred years, ferocious warlords have been locked in a death struggle for supremacy in the fractured land. Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan tells the tale of that era and how, through a painful birth, the modern Japan would be born.
Age of Samurai is a limited docuseries featuring the usual shtick: talking heads, narration, recreations with actors, and maps. So many juicy, juicy maps. However, it’s the way you tell ’em, and Age of Samurai has some wonderful acting, artfully but not distractingly shot talking heads, lush graphics, phenomenal editing, and a narrative structure that sucks us in. Forget anime and manga: this series is a gateway drug to Japanese culture. My only criticism is later important characters sometimes just pop up instead of being mentioned or having their importance artfully foreshadowed.
A kind of real life Game of Thrones… set in Japan, the twists and turns were riveting. I’ve never much been interested in Japanese history, but this has started a fever in my brain; let’s see where that fever leads.
The Harpers are struggling to deal with a recent tragedy in their family when a mysterious and evil presence begins to torment them within the sanctum of their already fractured home. A recent spate of child kidnappings adds further pressure on pater familias and local detective Greg Harper (Jon Tenney). Can Greg and his wife Jackie (Helen Hunt) and teenage son Connor (Judah Lewis) hold it together? And what is the evil force which has begun to terrorise them?
I See You is a crime-horror-thriller that thoroughly involves you in its mythology from the start. It’s also an interestingly structured and plotted film without being overwrought in the least. Split quite neatly into two halves, the second offers us a completely different perspective on the story thus far and develops the plot in unforeseen ways. Yet despite the unexpected twists, I See You is never a shlocky twistomatron, throwing up mindbending twists for the Hell of it. Quite the opposite: everything moves and develops in a completely believable way. Indeed, at the half way point where we begin to see the story from a different angle, so to speak, I felt momentarily deflated that the “reveal” was so soon. Yet this half-way point reveal was only the beginning of what was a wonderful ride indeed.
The music and sound design was thoroughly disturbing from the very beginning. It combined with the cinematography to unsettle and rivet us simultaneous. Never a boring moment. I kept waiting for the film to careen off the tracks as so many of this kind do in the second or third act. But it never happened. The writing was first rate and all the actors convinced. But the cherry on the cake? Horror now has a new iconic image to add to its scripture (see the poster above). This movie has all the traits I associate with a franchise-spawning beast, and I foretell a slew of much worse sequels coming from this bad boy.
You may have noticed that I haven’t said too much about the plot details-wise. Well frankly, I don’t want to ruin it for you. Just watch this movie. Highly satisfying in every way.
Live Twice, Love Once a.k.a. Vivir Dos Veces (‘Live Twice’) is the touching story of a retired university lecturer Emilio (Oscar Martinez) who, upon being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, decides to track down the one who got away. Think of it as a geriatric Road Trip, with a less severe neurodegenerative disorder.
Funny and heart-warming, all four of our leads convince and the characters win our hearts. Emilio, a passive-aggressive and sardonic old stick-in-the-mud; Julia (Inma Cuesta), his somewhat naggy but deeping caring daughter; Blanca (Mafalda Carbonell), the cheese to her grandfather’s chalk; and Julia’s online life coach husband Felipe (Nacho Lopez), more believable and less zany than you’d think.
The change in Emilio’s very personality is poignant, and the trip (literal and metaphorical) which our characters embark on is by turns funny and touching. However, I felt there was something lacking in the somewhat forced double climax to the movie.
When a home birth goes tragically wrong, Marta (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean’s (Shia LaBeouf) marriage and lives spiral viciously downwards as they struggle to deal with their awful loss.
Pieces of a Woman features powerful central performances from Kirby and LaBeouf. The film was realistic and often crushingly depressing. But it also dragged. Slow to move, it wasn’t so much a slow-burner as a slow-flickerer. It was missing that little something extra. None-the-less, the brilliance of the cast, the direction, the editing, and the realism of the script make it one worth seeing.
Not so much a well-structured narrative but rather well-drawn characters.